Thursday 31 January 2013

Sunday 27 January 2013

Mick, my mentor

Self doubt, lack of confidence, questioning my ability to compete at the level I'd like to: generally how I've been feeling recently. However I have Mick and his wise words and inspirational guidance to overcome my negative thoughts.

Today I went for a pedal...
  • Fortunately the snow had gone.
  • Unfortunately the roads were flooded.
  • Fortunately I had taken my Basso fitted with a mudguard.
  • Unfortunately my feet got wet when riding through the flooded roads
  • Fortunately the temperature was a mild 8 degrees and the sky was blue. My feet didn't take too long to dry
  • Unfortunately it was blowing a gale
  • Fortunately my friend Rick joined me and, whilst we chatted, the miles went by
  • Unfortunately my average speed was a bit low
  • Fortunately it was because of the wind and the 3,821 feet of climbing
  • Unfortunately it didn't look as though I was going to do a metric century
  • Fortunately I rode around the block to bring my mileage over 63miles!
More base miles on quiet country lanes. Thank you to Rick for the welcomed company and the frequent shelter behind his oversized Gore jacket.

And a big thank you to Mick for the flattering comments.

Thanks Rick and Mick :-)

Wednesday 23 January 2013


My son and I went to the Excel bike show at the weekend.  One of the highlights was watching the folding bike race and I regretted not accepting the invitation to participate.

Well done to my friends in the LBC who took it very seriously - mudguards off, kojak tyres on, sartorial elegance on display...

Still, there's always the Smithfield Nocturne on the 8th June...

Sunday 20 January 2013

If Elvis had a bike

...maybe he wouldn't have died on the toilet.

A road pedal was out of the question today as we've had several inches of snow.  So my hardtail mountain bike came out to play.

Bib shorts, leg warmers, high-neck long sleeved base layer, fleece lined jacket, shower proof cape and gloves = toasty.

I decided to stay away from the roads due to the risk of out of control cars. My route took me across Flitwick moor, Flitton moor, across to Water End and into Maulden Woods.

The narrow bridle paths in the woods were heavily rutted and my tyres dug through the snow and into sections of bog on a couple of occasions -deep enough to stand the bike upright. Thankfully my feet remained dry.


The descent down from Maulden church was treacherous and the compacted snow from the resident's sledging spat me off the bike and sent me sliding down the road on my derrier. With a bruised pride and a bump on the knee, I decided to call it a day. 

Friday 18 January 2013

Cycling path rage

There's a first time for everything and on Thursday morning 7am'ish I experienced a ranting cyclist, on another Brompton no less.

I overtook said Brompton rider after St Katherine's dock; he was only ambling along and he was wearing one of those old cycling helmets that look like you've got a boiled egg on your head and, I guess in the interests of being hi-viz, he had a yellow shower cap stretched over it. 
My route was the normal one via Wapping and through the King Edward VII park but when I exited onto Narrow street I got overtaken by the same Brompton cyclist.  I am in no hurry to get to work in the mornings so I generally just spin along but I'd previously overtaken him easily so I guess he was trying to score a scalp. I jumped onto his wheel for an easy tow.
We both turned right (into Colt street, I think it is called) where there is quite a large drain cover on the junction.  I'm always a bit wary of this drain cover, especially in the wet and more so when it is -4, so I cut the corner. The other Brompton rider took it wide and I found myself ahead of him and carrying a bit more speed.

The other Brompton rider caught me up though and shouted that I had cut him up and that it was bad enough having to watch out for car drivers.  I mumbled an acknowledgement but didn't go as far as apologising as I think he was exaggerating.

But he wouldn't let it lie. I was still spinning along and he continued shouting behind me - "was that an apology?", "did I know how dangerous it could have been?" and on and on.

Even when we got to the steps to Westferry Circus he was still having a rant.  I ignored him.

With hindsight maybe I should have just apologised regardless, like a true gentleman, but I knew I was nowhere near him. 

Anyway I didn't punch him.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Unfinished news

I'm a grumpy old git and like most old gits I like to have a moan. I frequently moan at the level of reporting in the news and at the journalists who are happy to give shock news but then fail to give any follow on report of how it culminated.

For example, the Essex Lion. The spotting of a roaming Lion near a caravan park in Essex was huge news but did we ever see a realistic report to say what shocked holidayers had actually seen? I don't recall seeing any national television news report showing a little old lady, residing in the area and whose rather large dog (resembling a lion) was let off the lead - tales of a ginger tom cat doesn't cut it with me.

I'd like to see follow-on news, which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed The Cycling Anthology book.

There's no update on escaped lions but several 'essays' from notable cycling journalists and authors of books, some of which have written books that I have read and (mostly) enjoyed.  The anthology book is great because it gave these authors the opportunity to write post-script book anecdotes and I relished them.

Highly recommended...(even if you are not a grumpy old git).

Sunday 13 January 2013

Dealt a lesson in tactics

I tagged onto the Bedford road cc, fast group, club run this morning.

My aim was to test my legs against some other quick'ish riders and to have a bit of company on a pedal, as I'd done a lot of solo miles recently.

I rode the 10 miles over to the start and saw my Commissaire friend waiting with the group. He said he was going to be chief judge at the Excel races next week and asked if I was going to race.  I regret not signing up now as I am feeling better than anticipated and I didn't put on as many kilos as I thought I would over Christmas - I could have also slipped him a few quid to disqualify anyone beating me over the line ;-)

The fast group was made up of five other riders and we went off at a reasonable pace and I sat in to get used to riding in their group.  I soon learned not to sit on the wheel of one of the group as he was constantly clearing his nose the farmer's way without much regard for anyone behind him.  I worked out the best position in the group was up the front or tail-end-Charley but after hitting a pot hole which hadn't been called out I figured up front was best.

I tested the group out on a couple of hills and the Festive 500km paid dividends. After a big climb one of the group commented on my smooth cadence which, again, I put down to the good base miles over Winter.

At 35 miles into the ride I noticed that some of the group had started to do stretching - backs and legs - yet I was still feeling fine.  They made the decision to fit in a cafe stop which was fine by me as I hadn't had my caffeine fix for the morning.  But 4 miles out from the cafe I was dealt a lesson in race tactics.

I had moved right to the back after traversing an icey corner and was sitting on the wheel of the one of the group when the front riders went off...hard.  I missed the move and when I realised the cyclist in front of me wasn't going to chase it was too late.  I tried to pursue them to join the sprint to the cafe and I closed the gap on a climb but I couldn't bridge it totally and the group ahead, working together, arrived at the cafe before me.  Nice move and so much for the play acting stretches.

On the return leg I received some other tips, in particular about saving my energy on the climbs and staying in the group - keeping my powder dry.  We'll see.

Thursday 10 January 2013




  1. An action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end.
  2. The art of scalping disposing armed forces cyclists in order of battle SCR and of organizing operations attacks, esp. during contact with an enemy adversary.


My strategy when it comes to commuting on my Brompton is to get to and from work safely. 

There are some bonuses to using a bike, such as being more cost effective than using public transport and that it improves my fitness.  The fun aspects are the Silly Commuting Racing (and Strava when I remember to use my smart phone) but with LVRC races looming I have started giving thought to race tactics.

Tuesday evening, I paused at the t-junction checked it was safe to turn left and then sprinted out of the saddle to get up to speed.  I could see another cycle commuter about 100 feet up the road and set about reeling him in.  There was quite a headwind and it felt like pedalling through treacle, so it was a relief to catch up with the other rider and sit on his wheel for a bit.  He looked familiar and we've swapped scalps previously; I recognized his jersey, his backpack and lights but he was on a new road bike - ooh, I know what you got for Christmas.

I think he noticed that his legs were lit up by my front light and he glanced over his shoulder, spotted me (the troublesome Brompton rider with front mounted bag and wearing my usual nutcase helmet, chino trousers, regular shoes and a bright hi-viz Altura jacket) so he flicked it down a few sprockets to make it fun for me.  I was glued on as I was keen to get a bit of assistance with the headwind.  I did consider moving around him to do my share on the front but each time I put my nose into the wind he upped the pace determined not to lose his scalp.

I have to add that he was a decent cyclist and gave me the regular hand signal warnings for pot holes and dangerous drain covers.  I also applaud him for seeing the light and for no longer being an RLJ (as he previously used to jump red traffic lights in our other SCRs).

As we climbed up to Tower Hill I imagined that I could find myself in a similar situation in a forthcoming LVRC road race, hitting a climb into a headwind with another rider to beat to the finish line. What tactic would I deploy?

I waited for my opponent to do a right shoulder check before he moved across the lane on the climb. I stayed to his left and my tactic was to dive up the inside, gain some distance to not give him shelter and then race for the lights.  It worked. I put my head down and upped the cadence on my 2-speed Brompton, putting a couple of bike lengths between us and kept the intensity going. The lights stayed green and we both sprinted across the junction.  The race to the lights may have been won but I still wanted to stay ahead and now my legs were screaming at me and my heart rate was bouncing off the rev limiter.  I wasn't sure whether I was going to wet myself or be sick first.

There was no way I thought I was going to keep the scalp but I dug deep and continued pedaling as hard as I could.  I moved to the left of the cycling lane to provide adequate passing room as I was sure it was going to happen imminently. I freewheeled down the hill to try to recover so that maybe I could make another attack over Southwark bridge but a quick shoulder check revealed that I wasn't the only one suffering and I had maintained a reasonable lead. The scalping was going to stick today - the first fun SCR of 2013.


Monday 7 January 2013

Tinkering, no Tailoring

...or Soldiering or Spying.

I returned to work last Wednesday and clocked up three commutes on the Brompton followed by a 52 mile road pedal on Sunday morning. All good base fitness stuff and, with over 5,500 miles pedalled last year, I am hoping to build on my fitness and speed throughout the year.

I did have a rest day on Saturday though and my son and I spent some quality time tinkering on our bikes.

Mountain bike disc brakes: The Trek Liquid 10 that we bought used last year was fitted with Hayes brakes and I disliked them even after getting them overhauled in a shop.  The shop mechanic had recommended replacing them with Shimano Deore and he claimed we could get them for about £45 per front and back.  Astonishingly I bought both front and back for a total of £50 (RRP £110) and my son and I fitted them in less than 30 minutes.

Basso brake blocks: The cheap cartridges that I purchased from Grafham Water are blingy but the pads are made of cheese.  I have done three wet weather rides on the bike since fitting them and the pads are nearly completely worn and haven't been confidence inspiring when braking.  I have bought some new pads and they were pretty cheap so it might be a false economy but (you never know) they could turn out to be OEM Shimano and, if so, I'll feel smug and buy some more for my Brompton.

Basso bar tape:  I met the France wholesale representative for Mavic, Lezyne and Lizard Skins at the 2008 l'Etape pre-ride trade fair, where I was shown three respective innovative products: retrofit sealed ceramic bearings into Mavic hubs, Lezyne multi-tools and Lizard Skin DSP bar tape.

I haven't got Mavic wheels but I did relay the information about the ceramic bearings to a friend - who subsequently bought them, fitted them to a wheelset and then descended faster than me on most of the Cols we rode during 2011.

I've got lot of Lezyne products and rate them highly.

I have had mixed experiences with Lizard Skin bar tape.  After returning from l'Etape 2008 I decided to buy and try the very grippy bar tape and when it eventually became available in the UK I bought red for my Wilier and white for my Van Nicholas. Both wore out within 6 months and began peeling near the brake hoods.  I dismissed using it again and moved on to Fizik.  Last year though, I tried out the Lizard Skins DSP Race variety; white on my Wilier and black on my Van Nicholas and I have had no regrets, so I decided to try out the regular variety again on my Basso after I found the Fizik Microtex tape remained wet during my Festive 500 rides.  I reverted to the regular variety Lizard Skin tape because they don't do the colour I chose in Race.  I've put the Bike Tart standards to one side and gone with yellow which doesn't match the seat but it does match the frame and cables. How loud?

Sunday 6 January 2013

More unusual bike photography

When I was about 5 years old my parents bought me my first bicycle without stabilisers.  It was a Moulton Mini, red with a white saddle and bar grips.  I read the obituary of Alex Moulton last month and it brought back memories of my bike and I even did a search on the Internet for images of 1960's red Moulton bicycles.

Coincidentally, today I sat in The Hub enjoying a superb slice of cake and an awesome double shot latte when a gentleman walked in the door pushing a Moulton Mini.  The bicycle looked like new; the green paintwork gleaming and I couldn't resist striking up a conversation with the owner.  He had brought it in for Simon to do some work on it and, whilst there, it was mentioned to a local photographer who is producing a forthcoming book and he was there today to take pictures.

I had arrived at the cafe during a quiet period but it began to fill up with groups of cyclists so I made to leave and was about to wish Simon goodbye when the photographer enquired about my cycle background and bike collection with an interest in adding a further photograph for his book.  It clearly is a small world as in a 10 minute chat we had established that we had joint friends (outside of the cycling fraternity) and that his daughter even lived in the same town as me.  So arrangements have been made for a possible photo session of one or two of the bikes in my garage.

As I made to leave, there was a bit of interest in my Basso sat outside but that paled when a local cyclist arrived on his classic Mercian.  A beauty...